The body is weary. At 51 and having played five days of golf and then two nights of Futsal it is entirely understandable. I even managed two goals and three goal line clearances. The pain at night when I rested my tired body was noticeable. Luckily I did not cramp up. Every morning when I woke up my bones creaked and my back ached. Yet I forced my self into the fray everyday. My golf was a appalling. The less said about it the better.
Today, three days after my last round of golf, there is still a twinge in my knee. The back is a little less sore and getting out of bed slightly easier. My body was not pleased with me. But hey! – You only live once, right? And besides it was the Australian Deaf Games and it is something that we Deafies must do. It’s like a moth to a flame. And its enormous fun too.
The Australian Deaf Games are a Deaf community institution. They are held every four years and this year they were held in Adelaide. As always they were an enormous success. The Games bring Deaf people together from all over Australia. The Australian Deaf Games are not just about the sport, they are a social and cultural highlight for the Deaf community. They provide opportunities for social interaction and the development of life long friendships that are often difficult to form for Deaf people in the mainstream hearing community.
But I am concerned. I fear for the future of the Games. While Adelaide was a fantastic success there was one great concern for me. I have no desire to sound ageist but it seemed to me that the majority of the people that attended the Games were well -OLD – just like me. I could have been competing in the Australian Deaf Masters Games.
This became apparent to to me at the wonderful and brilliant opening ceremony. As the teams marched out bearing their flags I could not but help notice that many of them were in their forties and fifties, perhaps attending their fourth or fifth Games. From my perspective only the Victorian team seemed to have a good balance between young and old. Hell, the Queensland Futsal team, who I competed against, had several players who I competed against or with in my pomp.
It’s great that the games are giving opportunities to oldies like me. It’s great that oldies are still playing sport. That said, the body eventually does break down. For many who attended the recent Games it may well be the last time that they can compete unless they take up lawn bowls or darts. For the Games to thrive more young people are needed.
It is imperative that the Deaf community begin to identify young participants for the future. It is important that the various states begin to get out there into the mainstream and find young people who are Deaf and get them interested in Deaf sport. Most of these young people will have cochlear implants and they will not sign well.
Some of these young people will even have identity issues and not want to consider competing and socialising with other Deaf people. But mark my word many of these young people will be struggling in a hearing world and the Deaf community will be their godsend. These young people are the future of the Deaf community. Indeed they are the future of the Australian Deaf Games. Without them the Deaf community and the Australian Deaf Games will slowly die.
What a tragedy that would be. Perhaps I am being overly dramatic but sports like soccer, cricket, rugby sevens, touch football and basketball are a young persons game. There is a limit to the length of time old guys like me can participate and prop them up. Indeed basketball, once the highlight of the Deaf Games, has not had a competition for the last two Deaf Games – Is this a sign that the demise of the Games might be happening already?
So let’s get out there and embrace the young. Let’s recruit them to the Deaf community. Let’s show them the joys and thrills of the Australian Deaf Games. The next Games are in Albury/Wodonga in 2018 – Let this be the games of the young where young Deaf people become the new foundation for the Deaf community and the Australian Deaf Games for many years to come.
It’s not too late but if we do not act now who knows what the future of the Deaf community and the Australian Deaf Games will be! The time to act is now!